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Herbert Marcuse

Herbert Marcuse was born in Berlin on July 19,1898. He served as a soldier in the First World War and then participated in the aborted socialist revolution, which was ultimately crushed by the forces of the Weimar Republic. After completing his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Freiburg in 1922, he moved back to Berlin, where he worked as a bookseller. He returned to Freiburg in 1929 to write a habilitation (professor's dissertation) with Martin Heidegger. In 1933, since he would not be allowed to complete that project under the Nazis, Herbert began work at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and, along with Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, became one of the major theorists of the Frankfurt School.

He emigrated from Germany that same year, going first to Switzerland, then the United States, where he became a citizen in 1940. During World War II he worked for the US Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA), analyzing intelligence reports about Germany (1942-45-51).

In 1952 he began a teaching career as a political theorist, first at Columbia University and Harvard, then at Brandeis University from 1958 to 1965, where he was professor of philosophy and politics, and finally (already retirement-age), at the University of California, San Diego. He was a friend and collaborator of the historical sociologist Barrington Moore, Jr and of the political philosopher Robert Paul Wolff. In the post-war period, he was the most explicitly political and left-wing member of the Frankfurt School, continuing to identify himself as a Marxist, a socialist, and a Hegelian.

Marcuse's critiques of capitalist society (especially his 1955 synthesis of Marx and Freud, Eros and Civilization, and his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man) resonated with the concerns of the leftist student movement in the 1960s. Because of his willingness to speak at student protests, Herbert soon became known as "the father of the new left" (a term he disliked and rejected). He had many speaking engagements in the US and Europe in the late 1960s and in the 1970s. He died on July 29, 1979, after having suffered a stroke during a visit to Germany. Second-generation Frankfurt School theorist Jurgen Habermas cared for him during his final illness.